SIBU: The state Customs Department has begun digging out mounds of frozen chicken wings buried on an empty plot of land near Telok Engkalat here.
The process of removing the food items, which were confiscated and buried at the site by the department in an operation in Feb, is being conducted with the assistance of the Sibu Municipal Council.
State Customs Department acting director Ahmad Zainudin Drahman said the contraband poultry will be disposed of at a waste site in Kemuyang, about 40km from Telok Engkalat.
“After discovering that (large numbers of nearby villagers were attempting to dig out the frozen chicken wings for their own consumption), the department called for a meeting with local authorities to find ways to control the situation.
“Work to dig out the food items is being monitored and supervised by the Sibu Veterinary Department.
“We will apply Sodium hypochlorite (bleach used for waste disposal) on the frozen chicken wings at the waste disposal site,” he told reporters here today.
He said the frozen chicken wings were originally dumped at the site by officers from the department’s headquarters in Putrajaya, with assistance from officers in Sibu, according to standard operating procedures, between Mar 30 and Mar 31.
Zainudin, however, denied claims that the food items were seized because the packaging did not bear any ‘halal’ logo, or that it was part of an operation to control the spread of bird flu.
“The frozen chicken wings were confiscated because the importer did not have a permit to bring in the food items.
“Acting on a tip-off from the public and based on surveillance, our men seized boxes of frozen chicken wings, weighing 8.1 tonnes, from the Rajang Port here on Feb 23,” said Zainuddin, adding that the food items are believed to have been imported from the Netherlands, based on labels on the boxes.
It was reported that several villagers living near Telok Engkalat started to dig out the food items when they learnt that they had been dumped at the site.
News and images of the incident also went viral on social media.